Saturday, September 28, 2013

My 4th Light Dragoons

This has been a long time coming but I have finally finished painting my first unit of figures for my Balaclava Build: my depiction of the 4th Light Dragoons. I can safely say that I have never taken so much time or care in painting twelve figures before and I am satisfied with the result. The only detail I left out were the markings on their canteens - a detail which proved to be simply beyond me.
I utilised a couple of painting techniques this time which I don't recall employing previously. One was the use of a toothpick (or cocktail stick) to draw a line down the middle of the leg stripe to achieve a double line. I was particularly happy with this result and used it on the corporal and sergeant chevrons also.

For all of my gold lace effects, I first painted the details in a darkened yellow and then heavily dry-brushed gold across the top. When gold painting the leg stripes, I diluted the gold significantly. The result (I hope) is a metallic sheen better representing gold braid or fabric rather than a solid metallic effect. The shakos are in a mix of gloss and matt black which strives for a satin, leather like finish with a high gloss peak.
My trumpeter (well he's blowing a bugle but carrying his trumpet) has his instruments painted with one application of Humbrol Brass (I almost exclusively use Humbrol enamels) and a gloss Black wash over the top to dull it down. I'm no metallic king and generally keep things fairly simple. The sabres are typically chunkier than I like with the casting. I had meant to replace them with flattened steel wire blades - perhaps later. In the meantime I pinched them as flat as I could with a pair of pliers, then filed them back. They are just painted steel with a dry brush of silver.

The officer commanding, Lord George Paget famously made the charge with a cheroot cigar clenched between his teeth all the way to the guns and back. This is perhaps the only modelling detail required for the 4th Light Dragoons and was easily depicted with a small hole drilled and filled with a piece of carefully filed wire. These figures are all from the Great War Minatures range available through Northstar Military Figures and they are a one piece casting. This suits me perfectly as I always create my cavalry models as a single construction prior to priming and painting anyway - this saves me some time. There are some casting simplifications and it's always curious how I only notice certain aspects of a model after I start painting them. The most obvious is the fill between the riders' legs and the belly of the mount which would be fully detailed in a separately casted rider but otherwise unnoticeable on the finished figure. They are designed with simple uniforms and very few buttons for which by the end I was rather grateful.

I'm a big fan of these figures and my entire Light Brigade is from the Great War Miniatures range. They have lovely animation with essentially two horse poses and all trooper figures have a free sword arm which comes in two attitudes. You will have noticed under certain lighting conditions my 4th Light Dragoons have a faded blue uniform and not as dark as many illustrations you will find. Under flash photography they look almost light blue but are darker to the naked eye.
All of these shots were taken with my Canon digital SLR with a macro lens on auto or macro settings. I used Photoshop to trim and save for the web only. I cannot base these figures from where I am currently posted but will do so in the new year according to a basing convention which I have attempted to simulate in these photos. Based three to a 5mm mdf base in accordance with Black Powder 25mm frontage and 50mm depth per figure, my rear ranks will be on single depths but my two front ranks will be on double depth bases with the trumpeter half a length ahead and Paget half a length ahead of him.
As Paget was also the commander for the second line of the Brigade during it's infamous charge, I had thought of an independent command base but at a 1/20 representative troop scale I will integrate him with his regiment. My whole light brigade will be 60 figures (5 regiments x 12) plus command.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4eme Chasseurs d'Afrique: The Travellers - 4 from 6

Constantin Guys 1854 sketch of the Chasseurs d'Afrique made in the Crimea

Whilst I await a range of figures to include the Chasseurs d’Afrique in 28mm, I've put in a concerted effort to fill a glaring gap in my developing army list or order of battle for Balaclava. The normal wargaming reference world such as the cornerstone Osprey Publishing are conspicuously silent on the subject of the French army of the East in general, let alone the Chasseurs. In fact, from what I can ascertain, the English speaking world continues a long standing myopia when it comes to who fought at Balaclava.

I have; however, after countless hours of intense Internet searching and translation managed to glean the following details on the principle regiment involved at Balaclava – the 4eme ‘Traveller’ Chasseurs d’Afrique. The ‘Travellers’ were so called from the frequency with which they were posted and deployed in their short regimental history.

Firstly, let me note that of the two French cavalry regiments brigaded and present under General Morris at Balaclava (1st and the 4th), only the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique were recorded as being committed - famously silencing the Russian battery on the Fedioukine Hills. This is confirmed by that regiment retaining the ‘Balaklava’ battle honour as opposed to the 1st Chasseurs d’Afrique who merely include the mutual Crimea campaign honour.

So, how many  of the 4eme were there and how were they organised? Colonel Coste de Champeron was the regimental Commander who personally commanded two squadrons in the field. On that note, it was a long practice of the French to organise and deploy in demi-squadrons both organisationally as well as operationally. Many references mention the detachment of demi-squadrons of Chasseurs d’Afrique in specific campaigns in Algeria and they are often paired off by odds-and-even numbered squadrons. Thus the 1st and 3rd squadrons would form one demi-squadron, as would the 2nd and 4th squadrons and so forth. Each demi-squadron is commanded by a Major. At Balaclava, the Major of the first demi-squadron may be presumed to have acted as 2iC to Colonel de Champeron and the second demi-squadron (first in the attack) was commanded by Major Abdelal.

So we know that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique is at least four squadrons strong. A look through some often oblique references suggest that by the Crimea campaign, the Chasseurs in fact only fielded four of their six squadrons for the campaign. A look at the history and evolution of what I can find on the regiment is revealing.

According to Lieutenant Colonel (H) Henri Azema of the 1st and 9th Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique (RCA), the regiment was formed by 3rd December 1839 from authority by a Royal decree on 31stAugust of the same year. The regiment came into being with a foundation compliment of four squadrons – made up from the sixth squadrons from the 2nd and 3rd regiments and volunteers. Thus we can already see that the standard structure of a Chasseurs d'Afrique regiment is six escadron.


In his Les Regiments de Chasseurs d’Afrique Azema also states that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique had by 1841 five squadrons and one squadron of Spahis (native irregular cavalry). It is a tantalising notion from a modeller and wargamer perspective that one squadron might be of Spahis - but if so, they most likely were not present at Crimea amongst the French 'Army of the East'.

Thanks to the efforts on the French website Chasseursdafrique (see References Link on my Blog) we have access to two secondary historical sources (in French), one of which is by the military historian M Sapin Ligniares. We find that the Chasseurs departed Algeria with only four of their squadrons, the administration raising a further two to bring the total strength of the 4eme to eight squadrons. The first four, together with their Colonel and the Eagle (standard) left for the Crimea. The remaining four squadrons were under the command of the Lieutenant-Colonel to continue controlling the frontier.

In a wider discussion, the same sources refer to the strength of the Spahis regiments at that time, which by our period had attained six squadrons with a numerical total strength of 950. This is consistent with cavalry organisation in the French military by the Crimea campaign, at least as it pertains to the army d'Afrique.

Thanks to Google Books we have access to the weekly journal, All Year Round 1861 (Volume 4) as edited by Charles Dickens. In this volume, the contributor (I'm guessing the Journalist George Augustus Sala) observes the activities of an unidentified regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique in Lebanon during the summer of the previous year (1860). As an investigative journalist, being of an enquiring mind, he sought out and published the following details.

Paraphrased: Consisting of principally French citizens, this regiment had six (6) squadrons of 160 ‘horses’ each. Each squadron had one 1st Captain, a 2nd Captain, two (2) lieutenants and two (2) sub-lieutenants. Each two squadrons (demi-squadrons) had a Major (Chef d’escadron) and the Regiment’s Commanding officer was a Colonel with a Lieutenant Colonel as his 2IC. In total, a regiment (paper-strength) has 960 all ranks.

He remarked that the Chasseurs had three regiments at that time and that they all had such a structure. He clearly discussed this at the time with members of the regiment and made notes at the time. The idea of the Chasseurs d’Afrique having six squadrons by Balaclava is consistent with the abovementioned 1841 estimate, retained it would appear by 1860 – just five years after Balaclava. As is also clear, this is entirely consistent with the above reference to the Spahis regimental strength of 950.


Henri Philippoteaux's Chasseurs d'Afrique charging the Hills, Balaclava. 
So, we have a structure; although what or who made up the sixth squadron by the Crimean campaign is less clear. Whilst a squadron of Spahis may very well have constituted the regiment sixth squadron, it seems unlikely that they formed part of the expedition. Certainly, they are not represented in Henri Philippoteaux's famous painting they are not depicted  save for the dress of the unit standard bearer. Further, also referred to as Bachibouzouks, the Spahis were raised in large numbers (six regiments) and placed under the Command of the famously heroic and dashing General Yousouff (Yusuf). It seems that they were to operate independently from the 'line'. I think, therefor that we can dismiss the idea that Spahis were present amongst those troops of the Regiment.

What about a return for Balaclava and breakdown of the numbers? Again, thanks to Google Books we have access to Fraser’s Magazine for Town & Country, Volume LII Number CCCVII published in 1855. In this journal, we have a transcribed letter written by the colonel of the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique (Colonel de Champeron) on 20th November 1854 before Sebastapol. He remarks that in spite of hardships and combat, his regiment fields 133 horses per squadron- mainly Arabs and Barbs (also Berber Horse) both of whom are famously hardy breeds. So, we have the numbers per squadron only 26 days after the battle. I really don’t think you can ask for better evidence than that.

Let us assume that horses means horses and not an interchangeable term for horse and/or troopers. Let us also assume that with the impact of disease common on campaigns (cholera being prevalent) and other illnesses, the loss in men will match that of the losses in mounts at least for the French regiments and by November – before the winter that was to come. With such reasonable assumptions in mind, if the 4eme has only four squadrons let us calculate that the 4eme can field 532 fighting 'effectives'.

Alexander Kingslake, in his ‘The Invasion of the Crimea: Battle of Balaclava’ Vol 6 (2d ed. 1868) cites specifically that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique had but four squadrons which charged in two demi-squadron lines – Major Abdelal led the first, supported by the Colonel’s. This account carries weight as it was Kingslake's crowning work in a comprehensive series of eight volumes. The first volume was published in 1863; however, and Kinglsake is noted for his partizan views on the participants and the campaign. This does not necessarily challenge the detail and he does pay some notable attention to the French part in the battle. Having said that, we need to remember that this is an historical account written by a legal man perhaps better described as a travel writer and historian. Kingslake was not a military man, not a military historian and certainly no Frenchman but he was actually there during the campaign. Kingslake tells us they charged with their four squadrons which amounted to ‘only a few hundred horsemen’ suffering ten killed in the action (two officers/eight other ranks) and 28 wounded. If I am any judge, his account is too detailed concerning the squadrons actually involved in the charge to be wrong. I’ll come back to this.

BRIGADE STRENGTH

Yet, General d’Allonville (commanding the 1st and 4th Chasseurs) is often attributed (probably simplistically) with having 1500 cavalry under his command (see Wikipedia Balaclava Order of Battle). Evenly divided, this accords each regiment with 750 horses and men which does not balance well with the November return of 532 for the 4eme Chassuers d’Afrique. If we take the aforementioned reference (Dickens) of 160 per full squadron, then even a four squadron regiment can only field 640. With the 1st Chasseurs d’Afrique, the Brigade must have fallen far short of the claimed 1500 – being 1280.

If; however, they fielded six squadrons each, they would have fielded at least at the commencement of the campaign a field strength of 1920. Whilst this is excessive of the 1500 estimate we must observe that the referred order of battle is for Balaclava and not the campaign. If we apply the November returns figure for the 4eme squadrons consistently to both regiments and extend that back 26 days then the brigade would number 1596 – the nearest figure to the stated 1500 sabres. If accurately 'estimated', the 1500 figure was always just too rounded to be specific and I suspect 'calculated' without proper reference to the facts.

REGIMENTAL STRENGTH

The evidence is clear for both the Regiment and Brigade. At best they could have started their campaign with 1280 fighting effectives plus Brigade command and supports - not 1500. By Balaclava, at least the 4eme fielded 532 across four squadrons and this is the regiment I need to depict. At my 1:10 representative troop scale this means my 4eme Chasseurs d'Afrique will be around the 53 figure mark - just shy of the strength of the entire British Light Brigade.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

MADE TO ORDER: Ebor Miniatures

It is with a good deal of enthusiasm and his permission that I pass on this new initiative from Nick Wragg of Ebor Miniatures. He and the team have come up with a sponsored sculpting roll-out of Crimean miniatures in 28mm based upon pledges from prospective buyers. I won't say much more until the end - I'll let Nick and his postings on TMP do the talking. I'm sure you will agree that the quality of the following sculpts are the best in the business.

"I have just received these pictures of the first greens for my Crimean war British infantry,starting with the command blister,these figures were sculpted by the very talented Aaron Brown who has done figures for Brigade models and the Quar for Zombie Smith,I hope you like the figures as much as I do,these are 28mm in scale and will be released when the centre company and flank company figures are done."




 



 
"What is the Crimean war Project, well it is a combo of the Eureka 100 club and a Kickstarter with a difference.
If you have seen our new British command greens on the 19th century products review page (above) you will know we are expanding our Crimean war range,the project is a way for customers to decide which figures get made first and receive the figures at trade price.
How it works,I will post lists of figures which have been requested by customers and a pledge target to get the figures made once the target is reached then the figures will be made,customers who pledged support will then have a month to purchase the figures for the amount pledged at trade price,65p for foot 1.65p for mounted,any figures after that will be at full price.
so if you pledge £33.00
GBP
pound you can get 20 mounted figures or 50 foot,customers cannot transfer pledges between figures you can only use the pledge you made on that set of figures.
Postage will be charged at cost.

The figures will be sculpted by Aaron Brown to match with Great War miniatures Crimean figures,once the first greens arrive I will post comparison pictures so you can see how well they fit.
Feel free to email me at nick@eborminiatures.com or use the contact form on the
eborminiatures.com site with pledges or requests for other figures to be made.
cheers Nick.
First project list.
French Chasseurs d'Afrique £1,500.00
GBP
French infantry storming the Malakof £1,800.00
GBP
Russian mounted Cossacks £1,800.00
GBP
Russian infantry charging £1,200.00
GBP
British Guards charging at the Alma
British 1st dragoons £1,500.00
GBP
British 2nd (scot's greys) dragoons £1,500.00
GBP"
 
 So, very exiting times and I certainly hope as many people get behind this to made these lists and more besides a reality. I for one have pledged for 105 Turkish Infantry and 36 Chassuers d'Afrique. Please support this and see if we can't get some of the range gaps filled.



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Discourse: Executing the Russian Plan

General Pavel Petrovich Liprandi 1858 c/-Wikipedia
Having re-read The Reason Why recently, Hell Riders and the Osprey Balaclava and Crimean War editions and having watched Richardson's The Charge of the Light Brigade more times than is normal; what is lacking is a genuine Russian perspective on the battle of Balaclava. I'm not actually speaking of an account of events from their side but rather an appreciation that the day of battle was in response to Russian initiatives and their attack plan.

The fact that the supply lines for the siege of Sevastopol and the whole army was protected by the reserve, half of which were cavalry presented the Russian command with a golden opportunity. They wrong footed the allies and stole the Causeway Heights and with it the Woronzof Road quite early in the day, with relatively minimal losses and well before substantial infantry forces could be pulled back to bolster the Turkish held redoubts, the 93rd Highlanders and the Marines.

Full credit must be given to Liprandi for the numbers he was able to mobilise and shift and of course his was a well balanced force with plenty of infantry supported by artillery and vast quantities of horse. When we continually analyse the faults and failures of the allied battle, we tend to overlook the fact that Balaclava for the allies was a day of response.

Looking at that response, Raglan recalled sufficient infantry if they arrived in time and if the Russian assault could be delayed. Unlike the previous battles in this campaign, the cavalry were committed - first the Heavy and then the whole Cavalry Division with minimal support from what field and horse artillery he had in hand. Easy for historical commentators to assess from their arm-chairs but the sense of desperation must have been suffocating. The battle could very well have ended the war on the spot with disastrous consequences for the Allies.

When committing the cavalry with the Light Brigade as the spearhead, even if the Light Brigade had been directed to the redoubts and reached the guns on the causeway heights, who were they to have been supported by? What could they have hoped to achieve and at what cost? Possibly the Heavy Brigade would have committed in their support but what effect could any number if cavalry have been expected to have had against masses of artillery supported infantry in prepared defences on high ground? Certainly, the entire cavalry division was not to have enjoyed infantry support in the way their Russian counterparts had.

Irrespective of the successes and failures of either cavalry brigade on the day, the allies (chiefly Lord Raglan) were caught out and found themselves compelled to commit the only force at their disposal for each of their seemingly desperate counter-attacks - unsupported cavalry.

This day was a Russian day and all were falling before them. Raglan could not have anticipated a Russian halt on the Causeway Heights. With the forces at their command, the Russian were no doubt expected to have continued on to Balaclava Bay for all Raglan could have known and look set to do so. The failure of Liprandi to do so was a costly error.

A lot of criticism is leveled at the quality of Russian troops but perhaps on this occasion, it is not entirely unfounded. If numbers alone won battles, Liprandi would have been the hero of the century. Time and again; however, they failed in the face of inferior numbers and rarely managed to capitalise on their successes. Personal accounts (for example) of the 'escape' along the valley of death by the survivors of the Light Brigade highlight the reticence of many Russian soldiers to get to grips with even a broken enemy. Liprandi and subordinate commanders may be said to have done well with the material at hand - choosing to strike at isolated Turkish positions and then hold them. To take and hold, after all is a completely valid stratagem under the right circumstances.

It remains a great pity from a Russian perspective that this considerable strike force was either unable or it's commander felt it was unable to advance off the protection of the high ground and continue to advance toward the Bay. I surmise that with the newly captured guns together with their own considerable batteries, they would have had superior fire support to push on.

Balaclava was, for the allies, a series of desperate responses with an imbalanced force which enjoyed as much success as it did due to the quality of its troops compared to that of its enemy. Further, I don't believe Lord Raglan mishandled any stage of the battle to any real degree, notwithstanding the Charge of the Light Brigade itself. I don't think enough is made of these points in any of the Anglo-centric accounts. We often tend to examine events as if one side had total command of the situation when in fact they do not.

For the reasons discussed, I'm not even sure that either side can be said to have won or lost this battle. The Russians made great gains in terms of the ground it held and the damage inflicted on at least the Light Brigade but the objectives realised were limited. Raglan was able to stabilise his position and avoid disaster, securing his rear by the end of the day but had been taken by surprise and had weakened his hold on the siege itself to do so - and ended the day with a decimated Light Brigade. No one tends to consider the loss of confidence in a now shaken Turkish command. Evidence seems to be emerging that some redoubts held fast for some time and took greater casualties than has been traditionally recorded - where was their support?

These are perhaps more reasons why I have decided to wargame this battle - balanced forces but of different make-up. Scenarios can be easily written for primary and secondary objectives, including re-enforcement options and key turning points. Very shortly I am pleased to say I will be commencing painting my first units for the project - the British Light Dragoons.